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“Jews as Split off Hostility” and “The Gas Chambers”
Parts VII & VIII (Conclusion) of  “Nazism as Bodily Fantasy”
by Richard A. Koenigsberg
“Jews as Split off Hostility” and “The Gas Chambers” appear below.
Click here to read the complete paper, “Nazism as Bodily Fantasy”
“Jews symbolized the wish to lead one's own life, apart from the community. What was annihilated when the Jew was annihilated was the Nazi's split off desire to be free of the society that had dominated his existence. Terrified by his desire to separate from Germany, Hitler felt compelled to ‘kill off’ this wish.”
VII: Jews as Split Off Hostility

Howard Stein observes (1986) that “one sees in the enemy the personification of one's impulses. In exterminating that enemy, one deals with a split off part of oneself personified by another. Yet, this other is inseparable from one's own self.” In posing the question, "Why did the Nazis kill the Jews," we pose the question: "What impulse or tendency within the Nazi was split off and projected into the Jew?" And: "What Nazi impulse or tendency, projectively identified with the Jew, did Nazis attempt to kill off when they killed Jews?"

We may assume that everyone possesses both a wish for separateness and individuality, on the one hand, and a desire for closeness or symbiosis, on the other. What occurred in the case of Nazism was that the wish for symbiosis—in the form of a tie to the community—was embraced absolutely, while the wish for individuality and separateness was denied or repressed.

What is being annihilated when the Jew is annihilated, we may hypothesize, is the Nazi's own split off wish for separateness: his repressed wish to be free of the society that has required so much of him and dominated his existence. Jews symbolized the wish to escape the omnipotent symbiosis and to lead one's own life, apart from the community. The Jew symbolized someone who, unlike the Nazi, was not bound in a symbiotic tie to the body of the Reich. Jews symbolized the wish to be released from the all-embracing community.

Nazi scholarship declared (see Aronsfeld, 1985) that

the peculiar characteristic of Judaism is its hostility to human society, which is why there can be no solution to the Jewish question at all. Therefore, the true understand of Jews and Judaism must insist on their total annihilation.

The "good Nazi" accepted Nazi socialization so entirely that he saw no distinction between his own desires and the needs of the community; between his own body and the body politic. The Jew was projectively identified as the antithesis of the good Nazi, someone who made no commitment to society and pursued only selfish motives, such as making money.

The Nazi cannot bear to consider that his sacrifice has been in vain; that devotion to the state is empty. He is unable to question the righteousness of the nation with which he has identified his existence. The Jew, consequently, symbol of disconnection from the nation, lack of idealism, filled the Nazi with anxious rage.

What was annihilated when the Nazi annihilated Jews was the wish to defy the community: to separate from and escape the omnipotent state. To keep his faith intact, the Nazi split off his ambivalence, and projected his hostility to the state onto the Jew. In killing Jews, the Nazi killed his split off disbelief and doubt—and simultaneously affirmed the power of the entity to which he had devoted his life. Killing Jews affirmed the omnipotence of the state, demonstrating that it was not possible to escape the state.

VIII: The Gas Chambers

Nearly six million Germans died in the Second World War, a number approximating the number of Jews who died. The Nazi principle of sacrifice for the community included the obligation to make the ultimate sacrifice. Hitler (in Mein Kampf):

When in the long war years Death snatched so many a dear comrade and friend from our ranks, it would have seemed to me almost a sin to complain—after all, were they not dying for Germany?

Giving one’s life for the existence of the community, Hitler averred, represented the “crown of all sacrifice”.

A paradox arose in the minds of some Nazis: Why should the best, most honorable and loyal Germans be fighting and dying for the nation, while other people—inferior, asocial or disloyal—had no obligation to risk their lives or to sacrifice for the nation.

Dr. Pfannmüller, a major figure in the euthanasia movement, stated that the idea was unbearable to him that “the best, the flower of our youth must lose its life at the front in order that feeble-minded and irresponsible asocial elements can have a secure existence in the asylum.” Hitler explained his rationale for killing Jews (in Meltzer, 1976) as follows:

If I don't mind sending the pick of the German people into the hell of war without regret for the shedding of valuable German blood, then I have naturally the right to destroy millions of men of inferior races who increase like vermin.

The fundamental idea of Nazi totalitarianism was that the state had the right to control the bodies of individuals. Sending German soldiers to fight and die was one way the state demonstrated this right. The Jew, on the other hand, was imagined to be acting to avoid state control. By killing Jews, the Nazis demonstrated that the state was inescapable: no one was exempt from the obligation to sacrifice—to die—for Germany.

The sadistic brutality of the SS-man represented identification with a state that affirmed the right of the community to use bodies of individuals as it saw fit. The SS-man already was committed to subservience, vowing “obedience unto death.”

In killing Jews, the SS-man identified with the sadism of the state—putting Jews in place of his own masochistic ego. The Jew was forced to submit even more radically than the SS-man; to be even more obedient. the Jew enacted the Nazi's own posture toward the state, carried to its extreme.

Goebbels, as the war progressed, was satisfied to observe that "The German soldiers go into battle with devotion, like congregations going into service." General von Rundstedt admonished the soldiers of World War II to emulate the example of their brothers in the First World War (see Baird, 1975):

The heroic death of a German soldier is not something to be forgotten. Instead, it should inspire everyone who remembers it to die in the same way, to be as strong, unswerving, and obedient, to go happily and as a matter of course to his death.

If the German soldier was obligated to die—go "happily and obediently to his death"—should Jews be exempt from such an obligation?

A death camp survivor stated, "Only expiation can assuage and soothe the Master Race. The concentration camps are an amazing and complex mechanism of expiation." The death camps represented "that total dissolution of the individual which is the ultimate expression of expiation." For the Nazis, it was precisely the individual—individuality—that had to be destroyed.

Killing Jews, the Nazis sought to kill off the autonomous will: destroying the idea that there is such a thing as a will that can exist independently of the will of the state. The Final Solution affirmed the inescapable power of the state's will—and the helplessness of the individual in the face of this will.

In killing Jews, the Nazis externalized, replicated their own masochistic willingness to give their bodies over to the state. Hitler, we have observed, glorified German unity, aspiring to throw men into “the great melting pot, the nation." At the mass rallies, Hitler's excitement peaked when it seemed audience member had "fused into a single enthusiastic mass."

The Jew, on the other hand, symbolized someone not fused with the state: not "welded" to other Germans. In his rage against that which is separate, Hitler compelled the Jew to enact the fantasy of fusion, but now in an absolutely destructive form.

A witness to a gassing described the scene as follows:

People stood on top of one another, the bodies were all mangled, so tangled, someone had a finger in someone's mouth. They put them in so tightly, one on top of the other, a needle couldn't get it.

Death in the gas chambers conveyed the negative experience of fusion. The Final Solution was the consummation of the Nazi's symbiotic fantasy—"sacrifice for Germany"—depicted in its most regressive, destructive form. Death in the gas chambers was a demonstration of total submission to the state. In the gas chambers, Hitler's "beautiful dream" of unity—welding all Germans one to another—was transmogrified into a horrible, terrifying nightmare.